Once, more than 80% New Zealand was cloaked in vast, ancient forests – crowded with species unique to New Zealand. Deforestation began with the arrival of the first humans and today, less than a quarter of New Zealand is covered in native forest. Waiheke’s own forests were extensively felled as land was cleared for farming and now few patches of ‘old growth’ forest remain.
But, when you visit EcoZip, you step back in time, experiencing prehistoric rainforest like that discovered by the first Maori.
Our site is dominated by majestic Podocarp trees. Ancestors of these ancient giants have stood here for millennia. Walking through our rainforest today, you’ll gain a sense of how things were when humans were new to Aotearoa.
But it wasn’t always like that. When we first discovered our site it has been abandoned for years. Our forest – which is today designated a Site of Environmental Significance – was overrun with invasive weeds, choking it from forest-floor to canopy. Introduced predators, like rats and stoats, had decimated the once abundant native birds and wildlife.
Kaitiakitanga is the Maori concept of guardianship and protection. It recognises that we’re merely nature’s custodians, or Kaitiaki, temporarily in charge and bearing ultimate responsibility for how we hand-on the land, air and seas to future generations.
In 2012 we accepted the challenge of becoming the Kaitiaki of our beautiful forest, pledging to restore and rebalance its once-fragile ecology.
We implemented weed eradication, pest control and forest rehabilitation programmes, all funded through income from EcoZip Adventures. Thousands of hours have been invested by our guides, and by specialist experts, who’ve thrown themselves in to the role of Kaitiaki, or guardian, with unbridled enthusiasm.
Today the weeds are gone, thousands of native trees have been planted and predators are well under control. Our forest, once silent, now rings with birdsong. Its biodiversity has exploded and our visitors, to their delight, routinely encounter native birds and reptiles. We’re proud that these efforts have been recognised with a coveted Qualmark Gold award.
With emphasis on sustainability mounting rapidly and reflecting a growing demand for responsible tourism, we’ve partnered with Waiheke Resources Trust to give our guests the chance to themselves become Kaitiaki. For $4 our visitors can now offset all their ferry and vehicle transport emissions by planting an eco-sourced native tree; a tree that will still be standing in hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Tree donations can be added when booking online or via donation boxes on site. So for less than the cost of a coffee, our visitors can leave a lasting environmental legacy that will benefit both the land and future generations.
None of this environmental success would be possible without you, our visitors. So, when you whistle down our ziplines you’re not just having fun, you’re helping to restore and protect New Zealand’s environmental and cultural heritage.